Biological cells sense and respond to mechanical forces, but how such a mechanosensing process takes place in a nonlinear inhomogeneous fibrous matrix remains unknown.We show that cells in a fibrous matrix induce deformation fields that propagate over a longer range than predicted by linear elasticity. Synthetic, linear elastic hydrogels used in many mechanotransduction studies fail to capture this effect. We develop a nonlinear microstructural finite-element model for a fibre network to simulate localized deformations induced by cells. The model captures measured cell-induced matrix displacements from experiments and identifies an important mechanism for long-range cell mechanosensing: loss of compression stiffness owing to microbuckling of individual fibres. We show evidence that cells sense each other through the formation of localized intercellular bands of tensile deformations caused by this mechanism.
- Cell mechanics
- Fibrous matrix
- Three-dimensional traction force
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering